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CNRIMAA Atmospheric Observatory

CIAO represents a well-established ground-based remote-sensing observatory for the study of weather and climate. The observatory consists of a combination of advanced systems able to provide high quality long-term observations of aerosol and cloud properties. Since 2000, systematic observations of aerosol, water vapour and clouds have been collected. CIAO has been recently upgraded with the aerosol in-situ, trace gases remote sensing and greenhouse gases insitu components thus complementing the high-quality long-term remote sensing observations of aerosol and cloud properties gained over more than two decades of research activity. Currently, CIAO represents one of the largest ground-based remote-sensing station in the Mediterranean Basin and in Europe.


The CIAO mission is to improve the knowledge of atmospheric processes and their role in meteorological phenomena, climate change and air quality. Given the coverage and global relevance of the processes studied, fundamental aspects of the activities and approaches adopted are the development of internationally recognized Standard Operating Procedures, the open data policy and the full sharing of methodologies and know-how.

Research activities of CIAO revolve around the long-term observations of aerosols, clouds, trace gases and greenhouse gases within the European research infrastructures ACTRIS and ICOS, as well as around the participation of CIAO in reference observational programs and networks on a global scale, such as GRUAN and GALION. The observational strategy is organized to provide quality assured measurements for satellite validation and model evaluation and to fully exploit the synergy and integration of the active and passive sensors for the improvement of the atmospheric characterization.

The main research lines currently active at CIAO include:
  • Development and implementation of open data and FAIR data management policies within the ARES node of the ACTRIS Data Center and environmental research infrastructures.
  • Development and implementation of policies for accessing European research infrastructures.
  • Development of advanced lidar systems for studying aerosols and aerosol-cloud interactions.
  • Design and implementation of new products related to atmospheric aerosol measurements (such as aerosol types, Early Warning System for aviation, and boundary layer height).
  • Application of deep/machine learning and signal processing to Earth observation.
  • Integrated studies with transport models, satellite data, and climate models.
  • Harmonization of time series of atmospheric variable measurements.
  • Expansion of the CIAO observatory with the ICOS atmosphere site and the ACTRIS components for in situ aerosol and remote sensing of trace gases.
  • Measurement campaigns for validation and integration with satellite data.
  • Networking at the European and global levels.

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The CNR–IMAA Atmospheric Observatory (CIAO) is located in Tito Scalo,  6 km far from Potenza, Southern Italy, on the Apennine mountains (40.60N, 15.72E, 760 m a.s.l.) and less than 150 km from the West, South and East coasts. The site is in a plain surrounded by low mountains (<1100 m a.s.l.). The observatory operates in a typical mountain weather strongly influenced by Mediterranean atmospheric circulation, resulting in generally dry, hot summers and cold winters. In this location phenomena like orographically-induced effects on cloud formation can be studied. The site is representative  of the Mediterranean area and is affected by a large number of Saharan dust intrusions each year.